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As Trump education secretary speculation heats up, Indiana names top the list

Photo by Kyle Stokes courtesy of StateImpact Indiana

Gov. Mike Pence might not be the only Hoosier with a top position in the Trump administration.

Among names bubbling up as possibilities for President-elect Donald Trump as he chooses the country’s next education secretary are two Indiana political veterans.

National education policy watchers, including Education Week’s Alyson Klein, have highlighted former-Indiana State Superintendent Tony Bennett and Republican Congressman Luke Messer, of Shelbyville, as potential candidates. With Pence leading the transition team, a Hoosier could be a particularly good bet.

That’s right: Tony Bennett could be secretary of education.

Bennett was instrumental in Hoosier education policy under former Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, leading the push to create tougher standards for schools based on student tests scores and for the state to take control of struggling schools. But Bennett inspired ire from many teachers in the state, and he lost his reelection bid in a dramatic upset four years ago.

One reason Bennett might not be an ideal choice for the Trump administration: He was an influential advocate during his tenure in Indiana for the Common Core State Standards, which Trump has strongly criticized on the campaign trail.

Bennett had a brief comeback as education commissioner in Florida, but resigned just seven months after taking office amid allegations that he manipulated school grading rules and broke campaign ethics laws during his time in Indiana.

For the full story on Bennett’s role in Indiana’s education history, check out the Chalkbeat basics post.

Messer’s history with education in Indiana is a bit more obscure, but he is a long-time Trump supporter and a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee. Messer is a strong advocate for school choice, and he has called for federal poverty aid to schools to be used for choice programs like charters and vouchers.

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